I've been reading this book for my Graduate Feminist Theory class and I wanted to share a little bit about how it's affected me. The below blurb uses my own experience to pose a question for the class to ponder. I thought I'd share it here because it's very relevant to what I share on my blog... it relates to my fashion-self, that is. Anyway, see for yourself what I mean:
Reading Angela McRobbie (2009) this week got me thinking about femininity, the fashion industry, and my place within it. I feel a variety of contradictory feelings when it comes to creating and imaging myself according to normative femininity and the rules of the fashion industry. For example, on the one hand it feels trivial and overly narcissistic to invest so much of my time and energy into fashion and imaging myself—and all in the name of a feminine appearance! Although some of these feelings might, I think, be influenced by the standards of normative femininity itself—that is, its expectation that women maintain a very particular degree of femininity: not too little yet not too much. On the other hand, I enjoy feminine adornment and the material consumption that the fashion industry promotes and is based upon. I’m creative; I like putting together outfits. I live in an individualistic society; I enjoy creating a fashion image and identity for myself. I’m materialistic (okay, I relunctantly admit it); but I grew up in a capitalist consumer culture!!
I realize, though, that maintaining femininity by means of fashion is a never-ending process, for “the achieving of femininity invariably fails in some respects” (105). I’ve also at times begun to see myself as an object to be manipulated, fetishized, contained, and monitored. I really do begin to wonder: “Is this me?” “Do I really exist?” (106). I become fragmented, so (self) involved in a fulfilling yet ultimately unfulfilling project that is relentless, that constantly signifies my own limitations, my own “fearful lack” (106), my threat as an unruly leaky body—as a woman. Maybe this is one reason why femininity and fashion are so crucial to my identity. I want to bring my sexual difference “to order” (107). But again, I also simultaneously enjoy the impossibility involved in creating my feminine subjectivity. And there’s got to be a certain degree of agency in this, right? I mean, although I have come to see myself as object, I’m still an embodied subject. Otherwise, I’ve dismissed myself just as the patriarchal gendered order has dismissed me. Indeed, I’ve mobilized my very subordination; I actually embody it. And I’m no cultural dupe; I see that my success is based upon my conformity to the norms of femininity. I also see that I can receive various degrees of power, pleasure, and privilege from maintaining my feminine subjectivity.
So my question is this: Is their agency in conformity? Can we reconcile these contradictory feelings and experiences; I mean, can we reconcile enjoying femininity and fashion, for example, and feeling frustrated by them? How? What do you think? xo Caroline